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Federal court affirms expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

A landscape view of forested hills. There's a large mountain mahogany tree on the right side. And in the center is a large rock outcropping.
Bob Wick
Bureau of Land Management
Pilot Rock as seen from the Pacific Crest Trail in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

A federal appeals court ruled Monday in a case upholding the expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Southern Oregon and northwest California.

The Oregon-based timber company Murphy sued the federal government over a 2017 expansion of the monument, arguing it interfered with laws requiring the government to set aside land for timber production.

In its Monday ruling, the 9th Circuit Court said the Oregon and California Lands Act, known as the O&C Act, doesn’t say all these forest lands should be used for timber production. They added the law also includes directives to protect watersheds and provide recreational opportunities.

“In rejecting Murphy’s lawsuit, the Ninth Circuit today definitively concluded that conserving O&C Lands for their ecological values is consistent with the law,” said Susan Jane Brown, senior attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center in a press release. “Confirming BLM’s discretion to manage the O&C Lands for conservation values is essential to ensuring these lands will continue to provide ecosystem services for future generations.”

This ruling affirms the decision from a federal judge in 2019, who noted that, while the expansion would protect an additional 40,000 acres of O&C lands from logging, the original monument already covers 23,000 acres of O&C lands.

One of the three appellate judges in the decision, Richard Tallman, dissented, saying the president’s ability to protect federal lands shouldn’t allow them to subvert the will of congress – which passed the O&C Act – by prohibiting logging.

Tallman said the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allowed the president to designate national monuments, has increasingly been expanded without restriction.

“I am troubled by the President’s overt attempt to circumvent the balance struck by Congress and the majority’s haste in labeling that attempt with the imprimatur of law,” he said in the dissenting opinion.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was created in 2000 by then-President Bill Clinton, as a way to protect the rich biodiversity in the region. The monument lies at the intersection of the Cascade, Siskiyou and Klamath mountain ranges.

Near the end of his term, President Barack Obama expanded the monument to cover a total of over 100,000 acres

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.